Tied up in the Woods

L4/Korea Headquarters, Far East Air Forces APO925 (6 August 1955) Steaks, Clean CLothes, and a Bath HQ, FEAF, Tokyo– Eleven happy U.S. Air Force emn, who were shot down in their B-29 Superfort during a leaflet dropping mission over North Korea in January 1953, walk through the courtyard of the Jockey Club in Hongkong Thursday, where warn showers, a steak dinner and new clothes awaited them. THey are shown above, still in their “prison” clothes. A short time later they were decked out in new U.S. Air Force uniforms that fit. A suitcase labeled with each man’s name, was waiting on his bunk, containing both military and casual clothing, toilet articles, pajamas, underwear and other necessities. (U.S. Air Force Photo) (AF 252-4 6-8-55)(Released at Clark Air Force Base, P.I., 10:00 a.m. 5 August 55. Re-released by FEAF 3:30 a.m. 6 August 55)

Do you know what SERE training is?

The acronym SERE stands for: Survival/Evasion/Resistance/Escape – it is the closest thing to torture we do to our citizens. The Air Force, the Navy, and the Army all put their pilots through this training.

I hated it, but I’m glad I did it.

In SERE training, they set them out in the woods and say, “Hey just to let you know, for the next three days, we’re going to send squads of guys with guns to chase you around in the woods. We are going to capture you. We’re going to blindfold you, gag you, tie you up, put you in a box, then we are going to take you, imprison you and then we’ll do as close to torture as the government will allow us to do. That water-boarding thing… there’s a good chance you’re going to get to experience that. We’re going to come find you with guns and lock you in a box. Have fun. See you in a little bit!” And these people have signed up for the experience! Then their job is to survive the crash, evade capture, resist torture, and then attempt to escape.

Anybody want to do this? Ready to sign up?

I know people who have been through the SERE training. I usually ask the people who went through SERE training, “What did you think about it?” They tell me, “It was tough. It was great. I hated it, but I’m glad I did it.”

They liked the fact that they had been through it.

Then I ask if they want to do it again? The response… “Oh hell, no.”

“Oh hell, no.”

For those who were actually shot down and captured by the enemy in war, SERE training was the preparation for the torture that they would experience. It was the preparation for the pain they were going to endure. It was just the type of training that would inoculate them to that pain.

With enlisted and drafted POW’s, there was no pre-selection. If you went to war during Vietnam, you either volunteered, or something screwed up with your college entrance, or you just had bad luck – because nobody wanted to go. There was no pre-selection. There was no training. The Post Traumatic Stress rate of the regular enlisted soldiers was 60%. More than three times as high as those who were prepared and trained for adversity.

It is the preparation and practice for adversity that prevents it from destroying you.

PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE US AIR FORCE